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What’s it like to be Fabian Nunez right now?

Former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez has joined that small, sad fraternity of elected officials whose children stand accused of heinous crimes.

Esteban Armando Nunez, 19, and three others were arrested in Sacramento on Tuesday and charged with murder and assault with a deadly weapon in connection with the Oct. 4 slaying of a college student from Concord in San Diego. According to the arrest warrant, “Nunez said whatever happens, he would take the rap for it” and that “hopefully his dad would take care of it and could get them off on self defense.”

It’s heartbreaking, in so many ways — first and foremost for the family of Luis Santos, the young man killed in the incident. There can be no true, full justice for the loss of a child.

But you’ve got to feel for Fabian Nunez too, just as so many must’ve felt for Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums, whose son, Michael, has repeatedly been denied parole from his 15-to-life sentence for murdering a reputed drug dealer in 1979. Or for Oakland City Council President Ignacio De La Fuente, whose namesake son is serving 14 years in prison as a serial rapist.

You’d have to feel for any parent who sees his or her child stand accused this way, to understand the doubt and dismay inherent in pondering what went so terribly wrong. Whether or not the parent had a close relationship, or any relationship at all with the child, seems to matter little when you know the person up there in jail togs and chains is your blood. As a courts reporter, I used to see that horror in parents’ eyes all the time; as a parent, I imagine I feel it every time I read a story like Dellums’ or De La Fuente’s or Nunez’s.

Even those whose kids stand accused of lesser crimes – think Jeb Bush’s Noelle, or Al Gore’s namesake son – must feel this pain, though they need not take upon themselves the pain of victims and their families.

Any parent of any defendant must feel this way, but I’d imagine that to endure it as an elected official means a certain sort of amplification: The public has chosen you to represent its interests, and now it sees your child as the very bogeyman you were elected to protect against. There will be no privacy for you during this painful process; all the eyes that watched your work will now watch your personal pain as well.

Then again, it could be so much worse. Just ask former state Senator and Secretary of State Bruce McPherson.

You don’t have to agree with a politician’s politics to empathize with him or her as a human being, as a parent. So think a good thought for Fred and Kathy Santos of Concord as they grapple with the tragic loss of their son, but think one as well for Fabian Nunez as he grapples with how and why his got so far away from him.

Posted on Thursday, December 4th, 2008
Under: Al Gore, Fabian Nunez, Ignacio De La Fuente, Ron Dellums | No Comments »

East Bay Dem delegates thrilled about Denver

Once again, I wound up with far more detail then we could accommodate in Lisa Vorderbrueggen’s and my story about East Bay folks elected Sunday as delegates to the Democratic National Convention.

ayelet-waldman.jpgBerkeley author Ayelet Waldman – who with her husband, author Michael Chabon, has been raising funds and writing praise for Obama – was elected as an Obama delegate from Rep. Barbara Lee’s 9th Congressional District.

“I’m thrilled beyond belief, I am happier than I ever thought – I didn’t realize how much I cared until push came to shove,” Waldman, 43, said Monday.

“This is the first time in either of our lives that we’ve been this excited, this committed, this interested quite frankly,” she said of herself and Chabon, adding that for them 2004’s election was all about defeating George Bush rather than about electing John Kerry. “The opportunity to vote for someone rather than against someone is a profound experience that neither of us has ever felt before.”

“My profoundest hope is that it’s going to be a fun-filled few days – that we’ll have it decided long before, that everyone will have thrown their support behind Barack,” she said, but it if the nomination comes down to a battle on the convention floor, “then I want to be there for that too.”

Read more, after the jump… Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, April 16th, 2008
Under: Barack Obama, Democratic Party, Elections, General, Hillary Clinton, Jean Quan, Oakland | No Comments »

Panda watch!

panda02.jpgApparently there’s nothing to the rumor that Rep. Barbara Lee‘s effort to hold China’s feet to the fire about the genocide in Sudan’s Darfur region is bollixing up an eight-year effort to lease a pair of pandas from the Chinese government for the Oakland Zoo.

“We are not aware of any negative response from China regarding what Barbara Lee has said on Darfur,” Willie Yee, senior policy advisor to panda patron Oakland Vice Mayor Henry Chang, told me a short while ago. “There could be fallout later but we haven’t heard anything… In fact, negotiations to get the pandas are going really well right now – we’re more optimistic about getting them now then we were even six months ago.”

The Political Blotter had posed the question to Chang’s office after hearing that perhaps Beijing wasn’t so happy about Lee’s H.Res. 422, introduced in May and passed by the House in June, “(c)alling on the Government of the People’s Republic of China to use its unique influence and economic leverage to stop genocide and violence in Darfur, Sudan.”

lee3.jpgLee’s bipartisan resolution notes China “has long-standing economic and military ties with Sudan and continues to strengthen these ties in spite of the ongoing genocide in Darfur.” For example, China buys at least 70 percent of Sudan’s oil and has reportedly cancelled about $100 million in debt owed by the Sudanese government. China also provided funds for a presidential palace in Sudan at a reported cost of about $20 million. And international human rights watchdog Amnesty International has accused China and Russia of selling weapons to Sudan that are used in violence in Darfur.

Posted on Friday, December 7th, 2007
Under: Barbara Lee, General, Henry Chang, Oakland, Oakland City Council, U.S. House | 6 Comments »

Bill Clinton is coming to town tomorrow

bill_clinton.jpgFormer President Bill Clinton will headline a cocktail reception tomorrow night at the Rotunda Building in downtown Oakland’s Frank Ogawa Plaza to raise funds for the presidential campaign of his wife, U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY. It’s $500 a head, or $2,300 to get into the VIP reception starting half an hour before the 7 p.m. main event.

The event’s co-chairs include Clear Channel Outdoor executive and noted Democratic politico Michael Colbruno; Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums; attorney Kenneth Katzoff; state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland; Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Oakland; and developer Phil Tagami.

And among the hosts for the evening are Oakland City Council President Ignacio De La Fuente; Oakland City Councilwoman Jean Quan; Unity Council CEO Gilda Gonzales; Oakland Unified School District board vice president Kerry Hamill; and others. See the whole skinny here.

Surely they’re hoping the money they raise will help turn around what’s been a not-so-hot week for the candidate, what with a debate performance on Tuesday night that seemed less than stellar.

Terry McAuliffe, the former Democratic party chairman and longtime friend of the Clintons who now is Hillary Clinton’s national campaign chair, told me a few weeks ago that Bill Clinton has an extensive travel schedule set for this fourth quarter, raising funds on his wife’s behalf. “Every day he’s doing something for us,” McAuliffe said, calling the former president “probably the most popular man in the world today.”

UPDATE @ 12:55 P.M. THURSDAY: The Sacramento Bee today reports that voters in California strongly believe former President Bill Clinton should play an active role in his wife’s bid for the White House and also think he would be an asset in a Hillary Clinton administration, a new Field Poll revealed Wednesday. But the poll of 579 registered voters conducted Oct. 11-21 found comparatively lukewarm views on the Democratic Party front-runner herself.

Posted on Thursday, November 1st, 2007
Under: Assembly, Bill Clinton, California State Senate, Don Perata, Elections, Hillary Clinton, Ignacio De La Fuente, Jean Quan, Oakland, Oakland City Council, Ron Dellums, Sandre Swanson, U.S. Senate | No Comments »

Think they’re all crooked?

Then go do something about it. The City of Oakland Public Ethics Commission has two vacancies and is accepting applications, terms to begin in January and end in 2011.

The commission meets monthly, with one or more additional committee meetings per month, to oversee compliance with the Oakland’s Campaign Reform Act, Sunshine Ordinance, Limited Public Financing Act, Code of Conduct for City Officials, Conflict of Interest regulations, Lobbyist Registration Act, and False Endorsement In Campaign Literature Act. It also reviews ethics laws and recommends amendments to the City Council; develops informational, training, and public outreach programs concerning the Commission’s activities; and annually adjusts City Council’s salaries.

And isn’t that last one worthwhile all by itself?

To qualify, you must be a resident and registered voter of Oakland, and during your term and for one year after you can’t be employed by the city or have any direct and substantial financial interest in any work or business or official action by the City; seek election to any other public office; participate in or contribute to an Oakland municipal campaign; or endorse, support, oppose, or work on behalf of any candidate or measure in an Oakland election.

The seven-member commission includes three nominated for appointment by the Mayor and confirmed by the City Council, and four selected by the Commission as a whole. Commissioners aren’t paid and can’t serve more than one consecutive three-year term.

Click here for the application, and mail the completed form plus your resume to:

City Of Oakland, Public Ethics Commission
One Frank Ogawa Plaza, Fourth Floor
Oakland, CA 94612

Or, fax the application and resume to 510-238-3315 or e-mail them to The deadline is 5 p.m. Friday, Oct. 26.

Posted on Monday, September 17th, 2007
Under: General, Oakland, Oakland City Council | No Comments »

ACLU praises Oakland for rejecting surveillance

under-the-watchful-eye.jpgOakland got a shout-out from the American Civil Liberties Union’s California affiliates this week with the issuance of their report, “Under the Watchful Eye: The Proliferation of Video Surveillance Systems in California.”

The report finds that “(p)ublic video surveillance systems threaten privacy and, especially in combination with other technologies, have a real potential to radically change the relationship between the public and the government. Despite that risk, cities and agencies throughout California are increasingly deploying surveillance camera systems with little public debate or consideration of potential consequences. This is a serious mistake.”

As for Oakland, it says:

There is a Better Way: Oakland Rejects Video Surveilance Twice
While many California cities rush to roll out video surveillance programs, one city considered and rejected them—twice. The Oakland city council, in both 1997 and 1999, rejected proposals to spend between $500,000 and $1 million on a video surveillance system.
Council members fully evaluated both privacy concerns and evidence of the systems’ effectiveness. Council member Henry Chang, an immigrant from China, reflected on his decision to come to the United States, saying, “We came because we don’t want to be watched by Big Brother all the time.” Council member Nancy Nadel rejected the monetary tradeoffs, arguing
that “it made me feel physical pain — the idea that we would spend public dollars on cameras before spending money to fight illiteracy.”
Council member Ignacio De La Fuente cast the deciding vote, citing a lack of evidence that cameras are effective in reducing crime and concluding that the program was not “worth the risk of violating people’s privacy rights.”
Then-Mayor Jerry Brown concurred, saying that “reducing crime is something the community and police must work on together. Installing a few or a few dozen surveillance cameras will not make us safe. It should also not be forgotten that the intrusive powers of the state are growing with each passing decade.”
While the city has rejected a broad city-run camera system, it has allowed some public money to be used to fund cameras for businesses in public-private partnerships.

Posted on Tuesday, August 21st, 2007
Under: Civil liberties, Henry Chang, Ignacio De La Fuente, Jerry Brown, Nancy Nadel, Oakland | No Comments »

Don’t like Arnold’s budget? Write your own.

So you think you’ve got a better plan for the state budget than Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Legislature?

Well, it’s time to put the state taxpayers’ money where your mouth is.

Next Ten, a Palo Alto-based, nonpartisan group trying to engage Californians in their state’s future, will hold a town hall meeting from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday at the Oakland Museum, 100 Oak St., at which participants can develop their own state budget.

Participants will use keypads to vote on state policies including education, taxes, healthcare, the environment, the criminal justice system and more, factoring them all through Next Ten’s Budget Challenge online tool. The resulting budget plan will be delivered to the Legislature as it grapples with the governor’s May budget revision, providing lawmakers with insight into voters’ priorities.

Those at the meeting also will hear from speakers including former state Finance Department Director Tim Gage; Oakland Vice Mayor Jane Brunner; Oakland City Councilwoman Nancy Nadel; and Next Ten founder and venture capitalist F. Noel Perry. League of Women Voters members, educators, civic organization leaders, local politicians and community members have been invited, but it’s open to the public.

To RSVP and reserve a seat, e-mail or call 650-321-5417.

Posted on Friday, May 25th, 2007
Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Assembly, California State Senate, General, Jane Brunner, Nancy Nadel, Oakland, Oakland City Council, Sacramento | No Comments »

Alameda County GOP reaches out to Latinos

The Alameda County Republican Central Committee in March had invited a couple of African-American clergy members to speak at its monthly meeting, as part of its outreach to minority communites. Next Tuesday, May 15, it’ll be the Latino community’s turn to meet and greet with the GOP; Charles Hargrave — who’s piloting this outreach while launching his campaign to unseat Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, in 2008 — said three speakers are expected to attend the committee’s 6:30 p.m. meeting at its San Leandro headquarters:

  • Ana Chretien, CEO of Oakland-based ABC Security Services Inc., which is among the Bay Area’s largest Hispanic-owned businesses. ABC’s biggest clients have included the City of Oakland and the Port of Oakland; Chretien has been a prolific political donor, supporting Democrats including Oakland City Council President Ignacio De La Fuente; state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland; and state Attorney General Jerry Brown.
  • Henry Rosales, executive director of the Spanish Speaking Citizens Foundation, a nonprofit based in Oakland’s Fruitvale District working to improve the lives of low-income Latino residents by offering social services and enhancing opportunities for leadership development and civic participation.
  • Hugo Guerrero, executive director of the Asociación de Comerciantes y Profesionales de Oakland (the Merchants and Professionals Association of Oakland), and owner of Hugo’s Tours and Travel in Oakland’s Fruitvale District.
  • Hargrave said he’s planning to invite Asian-American community members to attend June’s meeting.

    Posted on Wednesday, May 9th, 2007
    Under: Alameda County, California State Senate, Don Perata, General, Ignacio De La Fuente, Jerry Brown, Oakland, Oakland City Council, Republican Party | No Comments »

    Obama fans to clean up Oakland’s act

    Grassroots supporters of the 2008 presidential campaign of U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., will fan out in East Oakland this weekend to take part in Earth Day projects, led by City Councilwoman Desley Brooks.

    “Barack Obama is the voice of hope for our country,” organizer Sumi Paranjape said in a news release. “We are urging everyone to turn out for Earth Day as an opportunity to improve our communities, help the environment, and be inspired about what each of us can do to get our country on the right track. Our ultimate goal is to mobilize a massive turnout for the California primary next February.”

    Although Sunday is actually Earth Day, the Obama volunteers will meet at 8:30 a.m. Saturday at Foothill Hardware, 6733 Foothill Blvd.. Some will remain there while the rest go to work on three other commercial corridors: Foothill at Seminary; Seminary at MacArthur; and 73rd at MacArthur. They’ll meet up again for a noon BBQ in Arroyo Park.

    Posted on Thursday, April 19th, 2007
    Under: Barack Obama, Desley Brooks, Elections, General, Oakland, Oakland City Council, U.S. Senate | No Comments »

    In case you missed it …

    Dellums to council: Resolve it yourself

    Posted on Tuesday, March 6th, 2007
    Under: General, Oakland, Oakland City Council, Ron Dellums | No Comments »